The Canadian Basketball Elite League, which held its first season last year, will be the country’s first league to resume play on Saturday.
Here are 10 of the most intriguing storylines to follow in order to join the competition:
The Lions of the Niagara River won more than half of the year-end awards in 2019 – Guillaume Payne-Boucard won the Canadian player of the year; Vic Raso, Coach of the Year; Sam Muldrow, Defender of the Year Niagara’s budding 15-5 season was tainted by Hamilton Honey Budgers with a 104-103 playoff loss as he teamed up to concede four free throws and two wide open threes in the final two minutes.
“We just collapsed under pressure,” Payen-Boucard said.
Niagara is bringing back a similar list from last year. Six players are back, including star Canadians Payne-Boucard and Tre Bell-Haynes.
“The returning guys feel like they have unfinished business,” Raso said.
Hamilton has taken a different direction this season. None of the 2019 squad’s starting lineups returned, but high-level players have entered the roster, including Justin Jackson, Owen Klassen, Dwayne Notis and Michael McIntosh. American importer Brianté Weber also boasts NBA expertise.
The two teams will meet on Saturday for the first season of CEBL at 13:30. ET (CBC TV, CBCSports.ca).
Raptors 905 Invasion
Raptors 905 is the G League NBA affiliate of Toronto Raptors. 905 will join the CEBL team this year.
Hamilton added several 905 players, including Notice, McIntosh, and Derek Cooke Jr. Hamilton head coach Ryan Schmidt is also the assistant coach for Team 905. And the connections don’t end there, as Notice and Mac are childhood best friends. Schmidt even coached Macintosh in high school. These intertwined stories can help Hamilton reach his peak quickly.
There are 905 more players in CEBL, including Negus Webster-Chan, the reigning Saskatchewan Rattlers champion. Guelph Nighthawks head coach Charles Kissy is another assistant to 905. The G League’s presence ensures the NBA’s eyes are focused on CEBL games. It also means that competition within the 905 will be fierce.
The moon wants more in 2020
Xavier Moon dominated CEBL last year. The 25-year-old Edmonton Stingers is one of the smoothest shooters in the league and was named the league MVP in 2019.
“I came without any expectations,” Moon admitted.
Moon attended 905 training camp after the CEBL season but ended up being one of the team’s last cuts. Former Raptor Jamario Moon’s nephew will surely have something to prove whenever he encounters an ex-905er.
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“I would not say that I personally [the 905 players]but it’s definitely a thought in the back of my mind, ”Moon said.
Luna and his Stingers will meet the Honey Badgers on July 29th. Weber and Hamilton’s Announcement are some of the best defenders in the league, so this game can be watched.
Carlton Ravens enter CEBL
Among a dozen players and coaches surveyed, virtually all of them chose CEBL’s newest team – the Ottawa Blackjacks – as their favorites ahead of the season. Former Carlton head coach and current Blackjax general manager Dave Smart have managed to sign five of their varsity players.
The Ravens have won 15 varsity championships since 2003, and some of the school’s top players from these teams will appear in Ottawa.
Star players like Yasiin Joseph, Phil Scrubb and Thomas Scrubb are good for Ottawa. Carlton won every championship between 2011 and 2017, when the majority of Blackjack players were at university.
Ottawa will now try to replicate these pro wins.
Phil and Thomas Scrubb
At the heart of the Ottawa squad will be two of Canada’s most famous players, Phil and Thomas Scrubb, who will debut in CEBL during the Summer Series. According to Phil, the brothers partly teamed up so they could play together.
Phil has played dozens of games for the Canadian national team. He is one of three basketball players of Carlton Ravens – the other head coach of Ottawa, Osvaldo Gianti – winner of the Best Athlete of the Year in the CIS award. Phil is a light scorer and older brother Thomas is a die-hard defender. Like many Carleton players, they play best together.
“I think it’s important to get to know the guys on your team well,” Phil said of the advantages Ottawa has signed so many Carlton players. “We don’t need to worry about team chemistry.”
This may be their first year, but Blackjack can steal the show. The Scrub brothers are the main reason for the team’s optimism.
Canadian Player of the Year Award
Aside from possibly identifying a possible champion, Scrubs should also be involved in discussions on the Canadian Player of the Year award. Phil said he is not looking for honor, but he could be the early betting favorites. The Scrubb brothers have already made an impact on last year’s race, although they haven’t played in the league yet.
Reigning winner Payen-Boucard believes his explosive offensive – he led his team in that category last year despite being a security guard – by his time as a sidekick for the Scrabb brothers in Carlton.
“To be honest, I think I got [my rebounding] from Thomas Scrub, ”he said. “He was the guy I was counting on … He’s pretty much the guy who will do anything and everything to win.”
There will be others vying for the award from Guillaume, including Bell-Haynes, Notis, Macintosh, and Jackson. With the eruption of Canadian talent at CEBL, it will take an even better season this year to take the prize home.
Defensive Race Player of the Year
Weber has the most experience in the NBA of any CEBL player. He has played 42 NBA games and defense is his calling card. He is ranked third in NCAA theft history after his impressive university career at VCU Rams.
“[Defence] probably the biggest part [my game]”Of course,” Weber said.
As a result, he will become the Leader of the Defender of the Year.
“He has a track record wherever he is, he is known as the best defender,” Schmidt said. “In terms of his reputation, he is definitely the guy with the potential to win this award.”
Niagara’s Sam Muldrow won the award last year after averaging 2.1 blocks per game per league. But with Weber and Notice in Hamilton, and Thomas Scrubb in Ottawa, CEBL will be full of sporting defenders in the fight for honor.
Could Saskatchewan Repeat?
On paper, Ottawa and Hamilton may be among the most accomplished players but do not count the reigning champions in Saskatchewan. Former Rattler Ryan Edjim will fit for Niagara, but his younger brother Kenny joins the current title holders. He is a defensive presence that will add to the Saskatchewan squad, which relies heavily on their defensive abilities on their way to their championship.
“The team was very good defensively last year,” said head coach Chad Jacobson. “There were many willing defenders in this group. Lots of real tough and physical guys who took pride in being protected. “
As with last season, Saskatchewan could fly under the radar in 2020 and surprise again.
Best of the West
Saskatchewan and Edmonton were rivals in the West last season. The Stingers finished with their best regular season record, but Saskatchewan had them all throughout the year. After beating the Stingers in three of four regular season games, the Rattlers again dominated the playoffs, winning 114–93.
Edmonton has staked on continuity in the summer series. Canadian Jordan Baker, who is a talented rebounder and high position passer, will be back. Luna and all-star first team striker Travis Daniels are back, and their chemistry is Edmonton’s greatest weapon.
“I was just grateful that he was on my team,” Moon said of Daniels. “Once I got on the court with him, man, it became much easier for me to work.”
The Stingers have the real big three on the moon, Daniels and Baker. Edmonton, like Niagara in the East, wants to avenge the playoffs.
What to expect from Fraser Valley
The Fraser Valley Bandits are perhaps the biggest character in CEBL. They finished 2019 in last place at 4-16. With Marek Klassen as the team’s lone returnee – with a player or coach – the roster is new and unfamiliar.
The incoming Tavarion Knicks plays more than his six foot seven overs and he has won championships in leagues around the world. The American is one of the candidates to pick up the pace of the team. Fraser Valley has potential stars, but so far no one knows who will lead the team.
Klassen is an assistant, leading the league with 7.2 per game last year. His ability to set the table could help his teammates quickly acclimate.
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